By Charlie McAtee
For Kellianne Mendez, softball has always been about family and friends.
Playing in the Indy RBI program since she was nine, Mendez was coached by her father, while her mother often helped with the administrative tasks for the team. Now as an 18-year-old, Mendez looks back fondly on her years as part of the city-wide softball program.
“I’ve played with a lot of the same girls since I was little, and it’s like coming back to a family each summer,” said Mendez. “RBI is a real family atmosphere where you want everyone to succeed and want to help others improve.”
The 2019 Scecina High School graduate has certainly come a long way since her early days in the RBI program. When she started, she found herself playing against older girls. Some were 13 and had been playing for quite some time.
“I started at Christian Park and I always played up in a division, even when I was little,” explained Mendez. “It was a little scary sometimes, but it’s just what I did when I was growing up.”
The increased competition provided an additional benefit once she got to high school. As a four-year varsity letter winner, Mendez played shortstop, second base and pitched. She was part of a successful high school program that has won two city championships and two conference championships since 2010. Additionally, Scecina has won two sectional and regional championships, and one state title.
According to MaxPreps, Mendez ended her high school career with a.348 batting average, a .458 on-base percentage, and a .565 slugging percentage.
The first time Amber Ward met Mendez, she knew her drive and passion for the game would take Mendez to the next level. Ward coached Mendez for several years in the Indy RBI program, and she knew early on that Mendez could play college softball.
Mendez will attend Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Mich. this fall to study telecommunications.
“The first time I met her, it was apparent that her drive and her love of the sport would take her to the next level,” said Ward, who is the head coach at Arsenal Tech High School. “Kellianne would play anywhere and any position. No matter where I put her, she was great and understood the position, and she was always thinking a play ahead of you.”
And thanks to the RBI program, Mendez was noticed by the head coach at Henry Ford College, Steve Brown. For several years the RBI regional tournament was played near Detroit, and Brown just happened to be a volunteer umpire for the tournament and when he saw Mendez play, he started recruiting.
After taking a tour of the campus, Mendez said it felt more like a high school environment. With small classes and the opportunity to work closely with the professors, she thought it was the place for her.
A family atmosphere.
“Coach kept checking up on me during my years in high school and made sure I was doing well,” explained Mendez. “After seeing the campus and meeting other girls on the team, I wanted to be part of that family program.”
For more information about the Indianapolis RBI program, visit www.playballindiana.org